World War I

From 1914 to 1918, the world was engaged in a bloody conflict that later would be called World War I.

War had broken out in Europe over local nationalistic and territorial issues, but eventually most of the Western world was drawn in. As more and more nations became involved, two sides formed:

-       the Allies, consisting of Great Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, and Belgium,

-       and the Central Powers formed by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.

United States President Woodrow Wilson desperately wanted America to remain neutral and tried to work out a plan for a peaceful settlement. But in 1917, when German submarine warfare threatened American freedom of movement on the seas, the United States declared war on Germany and entered on the side of the Allies.

The war was savage. On land, it was fought mostly in trenches dug deep into the ground. New and brutal technology – machine guns, tanks, barbed wire, poison gas, and airplanes – added terror to combat. Aviation was still in its infancy – the United States began the war with fewer thatn100 planes. Rickety and hard to fly, they were used more for observation than for bombing. New models were quickly designed as fighters and rushed into combat without testing. When they fought, pilots were so close to the enemy that they could clearly see the faces of the aviators they were firing on. Pilots had no parachutes, and when the planes went down, they dropped like stones. Although these aircraft had little influence on the outcome of the war, legendary romantic tales of great flying “aces” abounded: stories of men like Eddie Rickenbacker, a former race-car driver and America’s top ace, with 26 hits.

Finally, on November 11, 1918 – at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” the fighting stopped. An armistice was signed between the victorious Allies and the defeated Central Powers. The war proved to be one of the most gruesome in history: in all, some 10 million soldiers were killed and 20 million wounded. Of the 900,000 American troops, 130,000 were killed and 200,000 wounded – in only 20 months of combat.

The cease-fire was followed by the Treaty of Versailles, which set new borders for many nations, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey were no longer major empires. During the course of WWI, Russia had its own astounding revolution and became the Soviet Socialist Republics. At the end of WWI, the Unites States moved into a position as a major world power.

Questions ~

1.     How many years ago did WWI begin?

2.     How long was World War I?

3.     Describe the nationalistic issues that were the source of violent conflict?

4.     How many years was the USA involved in WWI?

5.     How much later than the first flight at Kitty Hawk did the Wright brothers’ invention become useful in WWI?

6.     What are the differences amongst an armistice, a cease-fire, and a treaty?

7.     What year was the Russian revolution?

8.     How did WWI influence or lead to WWII?